Skip to main content

Found an injured bird? Here’s how to help a bird with a broken wing

Do these 4 things right away if you find an injured bird

It’s hard to know when to get involved in the natural order of things, and many times, you’ll want to leave Mother Earth alone and let the ecosystem balance itself. But occasionally, the opportunity to step in and make a difference really does come along. If ever you stumble on an injured bird with a broken wing, you may be able to save her without harming nature in the process. Before you ponder how to help a poor flyer, make sure the bird is actually hurt. Some animals fake injury to lead you away from a nest. If you’re certain the avian needs help, it’s time to spring into action.

Related Videos




1 hour

What You Need

  • Cardboard box

  • Small towel

  • Bandage

  • Protective gloves

Killdeer pretends to be hurt to lure away predators

Can a bird survive a broken wing?

Yes, a bird can go on to live a long and happy life after their broken wing heals. One of the biggest threats during this time is predators, which is where you come in. A bird who can’t escape on its own needs a safe space, and you can provide it. But you don’t want to tame the animal (it’s not a pet, after all) or accidentally break the law (we’ll get to this part).

Bird lands into a woman's outstretched hand in winter

Can a bird’s broken wing heal on its own?

Just as we’re designed to heal after a break, the average bird can recover from a minor wound without any intervention. Often it will be starvation or a predator, rather than the injury itself, that ends her life. However, a major break will need human help, including surgery, to get it back to normal and prevent infection along the way.

Person holding wounded bird in hands

How long does it take for a broken bird wing to heal?

You’ll be surprised how quickly a small bird heals once you take care of the affected area. She could be ready to go after just one week. However, recovery can take up to a month for a more serious injury, and by that time, birdie will have lost some of the muscle definition needed to fly, so she’ll need some rehabilitation. Sadly, breaks can be so severe that they defy recovery, and the humane thing to do will be to put her down (but make sure you have an expert take care of this).

Vet examines a falcon's wing

How to help a bird with a broken wing

Now that you’re ready to take action, you need to figure out what to do to assist your infirm friend. Remember that there may be laws in place here, as strange as that sounds. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and a few other rules, actually prohibit you from taking some birds out of the wild, even if you’re just trying to help. Do the proper legal research before picking up an animal and bringing her home. Then, follow these four steps to take care of her.

Step 1: Call a vet or rehabilitation center. You may be able to find a local center with tons of experience that will take in the bird from start to finish. It’s crucial to know exactly how bad the break is and whether it needs surgery, both of which require a vet.

Step 2: Capture the bird and transport it to a safe location. Hurt birds go into shock very easily, so watch her carefully and don’t do anything that might scare her, even unintentionally. It can help to wrap her in a towel so as to prevent further damage, and make sure she stays warm and comfortable. Get a small cardboard box (with plenty of holes) and use that for transportation.

Step 3: Set the wing and bandage it. The wing should be against her little body in a natural position, but don’t force it in and make things worse. Then, secure a bandage around the wing and body to keep it still. Sometimes all she needs is a little swaddling and then resting time to get better.

Step 4: Release the bird back into the wild. There’s a chance that the wing might merely be strained, and your feathered friend will be back out ready to fly off in no time. Otherwise, it can take a few weeks to get her on the mend. It’s important that she doesn’t become too domesticated, so it’s good for her to eat from an outdoor feeder on the ground when possible.

A few things can cause broken wings in birds, namely cars, windows, and cats or dogs. Adjust your care methods depending on what got her — if you see cat scratches, you may decide to treat those first (don’t use chemicals though). Also, an injured animal means a scared animal. Wear protective gloves and be careful not to get yourself scratched or nipped while you help her get better.

Editors' Recommendations

Why do birds bob their heads? The answer is pretty complex
Birds bob their heads for a very interesting reason. Here's what to know
Two parrots tilt their heads to see better

Birds are some of the most popular pets for many reasons: They're funny, smart, and pretty. But they also intrigue us because they do a few cool things that us mammals don't. One well-known trait is the iconic head bob, which might make you instantly reach for your camera every time you see it. It's certainly worth watching, but what does it mean? There's actually a very scientific — albeit somewhat complex — reason behind this.

So, why do birds bob their heads? Basically, they do this to see better, but it's a little more complicated than that. 

Read more
Wondering how to take care of a hamster? Here are 8 pet hamster care tips that all beginners need to follow
Tips for taking care of your hamster to guide a first-time pet owner
Woman holding a hamster eating a treat

There's a reason hamsters make such a good first pet — actually a few. They're funny, cute, good with kids, and relatively easy to care for. But that doesn't mean you won't put in a bit of work. Between cage cleaning, feeding, exercise, and hand training, you may find yourself overwhelmed those first few weeks. Don't look for the refund button. Instead, go through these easy steps to tackle your new endeavor. Here's how to take care of a hamster. 

Read more
Wondering what to feed baby birds? Here are 5 things you should never offer them
Don't add these foods to your baby bird's meal plan
Hatchlings in a nest begs for food

Even though baby birds look like little dinosaurs, they aren't quite as tough. Since they're not actually velociraptors, you can't throw just anything down their gullets. Chicks have very specific food needs that will change as they age and also vary from species to species. While it can be tricky to manage your brand-new birdie's diet, we're here to tell you what to feed a baby bird. When choosing your avian's menu, avoid these five foods that may harm the little critter.

What can you feed a baby bird?
In the wild, newborn birds eat basically what their mamas and papas do, only all chewed up. You probably shouldn't go through the regurgitation process, but you'll replicate this type of feeding in your home without the ick factor. The tiniest of birds eat formula when they live away from their parents. In addition to being their favorite food (well, actually their only food), this will help you bond with your pet.

Read more